Ask the Vet: What Can I Do About My Dog’s Arthritis?

| May 20, 2012

Dr. Lauren - Ask the VetDr. Lauren, a local veterinarian, answers user questions about pet health.

What can I do about my dog’s arthritis?
Chad Van Tassell, Tionesta

Arthritis is a chronic degenerative disease that may affect any joint but is commonly found in a pet’s hip, elbow, shoulder, knee, ankle, wrist or spine. It occurs when cartilage in the joint is damaged, either following a traumatic event or with wear and tear that increases in athletic or obese animals. Cartilage decreases joint stress by reducing impact on the ends of the bones in joints, like a gelatinous shock absorber. Damaged cartilage eventually leads to destruction of the underlying bone. Cartilage contains no nerves – if your pet is showing any signs of pain, the damage and changes in underlying bone have already begun.

Signs of arthritis include:

  • Reluctance to take walks of usual length
  • Stiffness (that may disappear once the pet has ‘warmed up’)
  • Difficulty climbing stairs, climbing in the car, on the bed or a sofa
  • Difficulty rising from rest
  • Limping
  • Abnormal gait
  • Licking of a single joint
  • Acting withdrawn, spending less time playing with family (which is often misunderstood as a sign of ‘aging’)
  • Soreness when touched

There are many strategies to decrease the pain your dog experiences with arthritis. Over the counter pain medications like ibuprofen or aspirin can have life threatening side effects for your dog. Safer medications have been developed specifically for pet use and have become the standard for joint pain management. Never use a human medication of any kind in a pet without specific instructions on how to do so from your veterinarian.

Weight Reduction is an important step to minimize the stress on your pet’s joints. Ask your doctor about your pet’s body condition score (BCS), which should be normal (5/9). If your pet is overweight, discuss a weight loss diet with your veterinarian.

Synergistic combinations of nutraceuticals such as glucosamine/chondroitin sulfate contain compounds that support cartilage structure, prevent further deterioration, suppress inflammation, and reduce free radical damage. Unlike the anti-inflammatory medications described previously, these products do not produce rapid results; one to two months are needed for them to build up to adequate amounts.


Have a question for Dr. Lauren? E-mail her at

Dr. Lauren, a native of Knox, PA, practices in a busy animal hospital in Butler, PA. She received her undergraduate degree from Pennsylvania State University in 2005 and her veterinary degree from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine in 2009. Dr. Lauren treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rabbits.

DISCLAIMER: Neither Explore Your Town, Inc. nor Dr. Lauren Smith will be held responsible for the outcome of any advice given on this website, as a true diagnosis and/or treatment cannot be given without a thorough physical exam and lab test results. Your submissions to this column hold you responsible for the fate of your pets and relieve the above aforementioned parties of all and any liabilities.

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Category: Ask the Vet, Local News